Column: ‘Every Crisis Offers Opportunities’

July 12, 2020

Ben Smith Bermuda February 2020[Opinion column written by Shadow National Security Minister Ben Smith]

The Covid-19 pandemic has – and will – cause significant changes to our way of life. We’ve already had to adapt to unfamiliar phrases such as ‘shelter in place’ and ‘the new normal’ – something that will only become clear as time passes.

Many of us have been working from home, adjusting to Zoom calls, group chats and many other ways of communicating for business, school and personal issues and I have no doubt that some of these changes will be with us for a while yet.

These changes have not just affected us personally, there have been significant – and negative – knock-on effects on our economy. We have seen less people in town due to people working from home which has impacted many different businesses.

Our economy was in a bad shape pre-Covid and we are still waiting to hear details of Government’s plan to resurrect our economy post-Covid. However, every crisis offers opportunities – and we are seeing other countries adapting much more quickly than Bermuda.

Barbados has looked at the idea of working from home and what that could mean as a business opportunity and they are considering introducing a 12-month Welcome stamp which would allow visitors to work remotely from the island for a year at a time.

We should urgently consider the same idea. With our good infrastructure coupled with our testing regime and low reproductive number, we would be a perfect jurisdiction for overseas people to work. As I mentioned, we are all familiar with talking to people overseas via Zoom now. It can be done.

Allowing this will support Bermudians and Bermudian businesses, helping to create more demand, opening up new rental opportunities and bringing in people who will spend money in our stores and bring in much-needed money from overseas.

The Premier has admitted the need to grow the population and this is an outside the box idea that could capitalize on the changes we are seeing throughout the world.

The US recently decided to withdraw visas from foreign students whose courses have moved fully online. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said that students could face deportation as a result unless they were prepared to change to a college that offered the same course with in-person tuition.

How this will affect students remains to be seen, but is this something Bermuda could capitalize on? Could we create an opportunity for a hotel to become the room and board for these international students? Perhaps some of the tens of thousands of square feet of empty office space could be used.

With our time zone, safe environment, low Covid-19 cases, and excellent infrastructure we could be a safe option for them. Many of these international students are wealthy and something like this would start relationships with the students and their families who would want to visit Bermuda.

The question, however, with both these ideas is: can Government move quickly enough? Can we make changes in Immigration and act swiftly to seize opportunities in front of us, so we are leaders in this new normal? Or will we dither and wait until it is too late?

Covid-19 shut down economies around the world and as they reopen it will be the countries that act swiftly and innovate that will create the opportunities for their people. Can Bermuda – and this Government – rise to that challenge?

- Ben Smith


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Comments (3)

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  1. PANGAEA says:

    I think we need to see solutions not statistics and negativity which does not put food on the table.

  2. We must move quickly, and not dither. We also want some of Hong Kong’s companies. Move now.

  3. Here we go says:

    It’s amazing. OBA see other countries plans and automatically say we should do the same and we are moving to slow. I haven’t heard or seen anything coming from the OBA themselves as an elaborate plan to get the economy going. While the PLP has been working hard with the Pandemic and getting the country back to work. Nobody wanted to the airport oh the Premiere is moving to soon. Its open and people are coming. Now there comes Ben to say that other countries are adapting much faster than Bermuda. As The BS continues. PLP is doing what it can to get people back working. We were one of the first Airports open to international traffic with testing procedures and protocols.